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‘Encanto’ On Campus: Lessons From The Magical Madrigals For Penn State Students

Whether you’re a self-proclaimed Disney adult or just a student living on campus this semester, it’s likely you have heard of the newest Disney animated feature, “Encanto.” From becoming the staple of every ResLife movie night to dominating TikTok trends as popular sounds, the film has quickly captured hearts both on campus and around the globe.

Encanto tells the story of Mirabel Madrigal and her family. Forced from their homeland decades earlier, the Madrigals receive an encanto, or miracle blessing, in the form of sanctuary in an enchanted home. Gleaming as an eternal candle, the miracle also bestows talents upon each family member, including shapeshifting, controlling the weather, and healing any ailment with a single arepa.

In tradition, a gifting ceremony is held for Mirabel as the next child in line, but Mirabel, the young protagonist, becomes an unfortunate first in the family. Having received no gift, Mirabel remains in the nursery as she grows up but soon makes the jarring realization that the miracle candle is burning out. As the only Madrigal seeing the truth, it is up to Mirabel to save the miracle for all.  

A heartwarming tale of tradition, togetherness, and the enchantment of a life well-lived, Encanto represents a world of similarities to Dear Old State. Better yet, the film presents a few messages for the Penn Stater far beyond your average children’s movie. So, if you’re a grown-up, grab a cup of coffee, log into Disney+, and get ready to sing along. Here are seven lessons from the Magical Madrigals for Penn State students.

Keep Your Casita Friendly

An enchanted, all-knowing house personified as a servant, la Casa Madrigal is the ultimate symbol of the blessing come to life. But, when the family forgets what is truly important in a desperate pursuit to keep their dying miracle, the refuge breaks down, crackling and crumbling with personality as the Madrigals stray farther from their original values.

Here, a relatable lesson presents itself: cracks and consequences await a house divided. For Penn State students, this equates to the often challenging roommate conundrum. Our best friends turned worst enemies when it’s time to take out the trash, roommates represent a classic college struggle to keep your own Casita friendly. For the Madrigals, the house crumbled, but we all can stop a similar fate for each humble abode with clear communication. Take it from Lin-Manuel Miranda, Abraham Lincoln, or even George Costanza: a George Casita divided against itself cannot stand.

To Listen Is To Learn

Cousin Dolores, daughter of Pepa and Félix, plays an integral role in the story with her magical gift of enchanted hearing. Able to hear a pin drop from across the Colombian mountains, Dolores has a key advantage: learning important plot points way before Mirabel uncovers the truth. In understanding bits and pieces from each family member, Dolores is the first individual to learn the entire picture.

Here, a lesson becomes deafening in that we can only learn as much as we are willing to listen. For Penn Staters sitting in classes before spring break, the connection is clear. While it’s easy to tune out at this point in the semester, ignoring the lectures will leave you desperate come midterm season. Use the gift of two ears (and something in between), and the magic of the dean’s list might be your own miracle this year.

Perfection Is Overrated

Described as Senorita Perfecta, eldest sister Isabela Madrigal practices perfection with her gift of growing beautiful vegetation. According to Mirabel, this golden child lives the perfect life, happy about an upcoming engagement and adored by her community. As the story progresses, we see that’s far from the truth. Isabela enjoys creating asymmetrical flowers and unique creations, escaping her sealed fate of perfection as she finds strength in being free from expectation.

For college students navigating the path of the future, it’s also time to ask yourself, “What Else Can I Do?” The future is closer than you think, and it’s time to branch out toward our truest dreams beyond graduation. Sick of pretty and wanting something true? Choose practice over perfection, kids, and you’ll be blossoming in no time.

Break The Surface Pressure

Moving mountains and churches, Luisa Madrigal is an older sister of Mirabel with the gift of super strength. As tough as the crust of the earth, Luisa holds the family’s heavy burden beyond household chores with ease. Once Mirabel spots Luisa’s strength fading, the audience is gifted with a chart-topping tune, “Surface Pressure,” Luisa’s song of hidden struggle under familial weight. Here, we see Luisa’s true pain points and eventually, a hard-earned break for the rock of the family.

As the semester drones on, it’s important for students to find a similar fate in a bit of relaxation from campus pressures. While Disney’s commentary on the issue in the film is subtle, mental health is always important — even within great success. As midterms approach us, remember that Luisa symbolizes both mental and physical strength. Study hard, but know when to take a well-deserved break.

Moms Can Heal The World

Surrounded by gifted family members, Mirabel tries not to be upset or mad at all but still finds herself disappointed at times. Enter Julieta Madrigal, mother to Mirabel and powerful chef who heals the world with a quick meal. Finding solutions countless times with advice beyond her gift, Julieta serves up a lesson as old as time for children of all ages.

From calming brutal bee stings to patching up paper cuts, Julieta reminds us just how powerful moms can be. With or without enchanted gifts, there’s no doubt that moms save the day in more ways than one. Even as college students, a hug, visit, or FaceTime from Mom can do wonders, far more magical than any gift within the film. So, pick up the phone and give her a call. Right now!

Friends Can Be Found In Unlikely Places

For the youngest child, Antonio, receiving a gift means moving out of the nursery with Mirabel into his own room. Fearful of the daunting change, Antonio is reluctant to attend his ceremony but is pleasantly surprised at the reward accompanying his risk. Gifted the ability to talk to animals, the youngest Madrigal quells his fear of loneliness and finds friendship with the entire animal kingdom.

Living on a campus of 40,000 diverse students, we can learn a lesson or two from Antonio’s open-mindedness. While first hesitant to approach the unknown, Antonio makes new connections for joy and happiness. For freshmen at Penn State, a similar fate awaits in the face of friendliness. Strike up a conversation with a fellow student in class, look beyond the usual friend group on a Friday night, and, most importantly, make sure to stay open to differences. That’s our magic, folks, and what makes our campus rival the Casita in enchantment.

We Don’t Talk About…Michigan

In the boot-stomping, ear-worm banger known on the Billboard Hot 100 as “We Don’t Talk About Bruno,” we hear the entire Madrigal gang sing the story of Tío Bruno, a visionary who completely disappeared after a mysterious vision. In this scene, the group explains their confusion and at times, lack of respect for the character behind the ugly myth.

For Penn Staters, this would be Michigan, the black sheep of the Big Ten. While the Madrigals may quite hypocritically perform an ode to the foe of the family, we’d definitely like to minimize the conversation here as much as possible. Except for this striking similarity from our new favorite movie, we’d prefer no discussion on this campus outside of gameday. Enough said.

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About the Author

Lizzie Palmieri

Lizzie is a junior majoring in Marketing and Psychology from Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Ask her about Disney World, Diet Pepsi, or dancing on the Jumbotron at Beaver Stadium. When not causing general trouble, Lizzie enjoys playing golf, performing in the theatre, and being the CEO of reorganizing the fridge. Her favorite thing to do is hang out with her sassy sidekick, 18-year-old Italian Greyhound, Macaroni. Follow her on Twitter @lizziepalmieri if your deepest desire is bestie vibes only.

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